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Porphyry's Against the Christians Hardcover – July 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (July 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879758899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879758899
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

About the Author

R. Joseph Hoffmann is the author of many books on early Christianity including Porphyry’s Against the Christians. He is Campbell Professor of Religion at Wells College, New York, and chair of the Council for the Scientific Examination of Religion. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Oxford University, and the American University of Beirut.

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Customer Reviews

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Hoffmann would have done better work if the early christians hadn't destroyed most of the text.
A. G Provencal
This book presents a reconstruction of Porphyry's third century work "Against the Christians" taken from the (probably 4th century) text of Macarius Magnes.
Adem Kendir
The same critic even goes so far as to claim that this book will only be appreciated by "Christian-haters".
Demetrios Vakras

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Adem Kendir on January 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book presents a reconstruction of Porphyry's third century work "Against the Christians" taken from the (probably 4th century) text of Macarius Magnes. The excerpts by Porphyry are divided thematically and are accompanied by references to the biblical passages he was referring to. Because almost no anti-Christian works survive from antiquity, this reconstruction is particularly valuable as an insight into how 'pagan' or non-Christian philosophers may have viewed Christianity. Porphyry was obviously familiar with Christian teaching and scriptures, and composed a sophisticated refutation of its doctrine. There were clearly many who were deeply familiar with Christian doctrine and did not reject it out of ignorance. This book would primarily be important for studies on early Christianity, the persecutions and the religion's spread, as well as for philosophy. Because this is one of the only extant philosophical sources that was directed against Christianity. the work is essential reading for Christian-'pagan' relations in the empire. The epilogue to the book may provide a useful background for someone unfamiliar with the context. The translation is good, and the book well-organized and easy to go through. Definitely recommended.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By CharmedLife on November 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an interesting look at Christianity from the perspectives of the Roman/Greek pagans. The only way to remove Porphyry's 15 book work refuting Christianity was to burn them as well as the 30 book reply by Apollnarius and other Christian works which referenced Porphyry directly.

Evidently, Porphyry's work included refutations based on geography referenced in the Gospels, as well as Babylonian law texts 'borrowed' to flesh out the five books of Moses during the Babylonian period, etc. The quotes that have survived have been paraphrased to hide their source and survived in lesser known works. This book is interesting from its historical perspective. I have to admit it was refreshing to hear a defense of Idolatry, the folly of worshiping a criminal and the hypocrasy of celibacy, as since Peter was married (1 Cor. 9:5). Porphyry's criticisms are unique because unlike Celsus, he had studied the gospel writings in significantly more depth (since he was a former convert?).

The Epilogue wasn't bad - it was carefully written and researched, though more footnoting would help.

The book gave me a new perspective on the debate. It is regrettable a form of Graeco-Roman polytheism did not survive to the modern era. Its debate adds new depth to religious thought. Its disappointing to hear from other reviewers that this book would only appeal to 'Christian haters'. This accessment is wrong. However, if you have a hard time reading opposing ideas about 'biblical difficulties', you probably should not read the book.

Because of the dilution of Porphyry's words, and the selection of words design to annoy rather than enlighten, the quotes are not as razor sharp as they should be. You get what survived the intellectual purge and the reason why to evaluate them afresh.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating look at early criticism of Christianity from the Roman perspective. Obviously, the material Hoffmann brought together in this volume represent mere fragments of the original 15 books Porphyry composed against the Christians (all copies of the original work were ordered burned by the Church in 448). It is nonetheless interesting to read Porphyry's extant criticisms of the inconsistencies, contradictions, and absurdities found in the Christian gospels.
The epilogue Hoffmann includes for context on Jewish, Christian, Pagan interaction in the 3rd century is worth the cover price.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The pagan reactions to Christianity are not as well known as they should be. In the eyes of many people, Christianity unfolded on a blank page--guided by providence and assured of victory. The words of {Porphyry of Tyre, the neoPlatonic philosopher-scribe who preserved the writings of Plotinus, give us a whole new slant on the struggle. I recommend this book highly.
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78 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
While many of Porphyry's works were copied in Christian times, and Christians were generally interested in Neoplatonism, his work in 16 books rubbishing the Christians is lost. Works calculated to annoy both readers and copyists have few chances to survive. It was condemned as a mischievous libel by Constantine, without much effect, and again by Theodosius (448AD). The refutations by Apollonius, Methodius and Eusebius are sadly also lost. However fragments exist in various works by the church fathers, about half of which come from the Apocriticus of Macarius Magnes, preserved in a single 15th century MS (now lost). These are the fragments presented here.

The book isn't aimed at the specialist - the issues of dating, the MS tradition (less info than in this review!), the many philological issues with the text are not addressed, and footnotes are only for the translation, and mostly simply summarise Macarius' response. However references to the Apocriticus are given (an improvement on the same author's Celsus).

There is a rather pointless essay occupying the second half of the book, which the author admits is not for specialists and has not a single footnote. The introduction is unsatisfactory - for instance it does not even list the works of Porphyry. On the first page the quote from Tertullian from Ad Scapulam (title not given but obvious) is inaccurate; the lack of footnotes makes it hard to check others.

The translation is very crisp, and much the best part of the book. It is not always very accurate. For instance he translates "The evangelists were fiction-writers - not observers or eye-witnesses to the life of Jesus" (p.32) where the Greek (and Crafer) says "The evangelists were inventors, not historians of the events concerning Jesus" (p.38, Crafer, p.
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